In several nearby counties, historic African American neighborhoods are under threat from pipelines that will cross through or set up pumping stations directly in their communities. Many people would prefer a utility pipeline not run near their homes, but African American neighborhoods are quite often targeted as places of “low impact” by utility companies.
Such is the case in the community of Wingina in Nelson County, Virginia. Historically, Wingina was a riverfront community of several plantations. As is often the case in Virginia, the newl- freed individuals who once made up the enslaved communities on these plantations came to settle near the plantations on which they once worked and lived. In Wingina, many people bought land and built their lives near Union Hill Plantation.
The Woodson Family – A Family of Distinction
Rhamonia Woodson, a descendant of enslaved people from Union Hill and Oak Ridge Plantations, recounts her family’s deep roots and rich contributions to this community in her letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:
Our ancestors built the James River Canal and Kanawha Bridge. . . Not only are our families’ properties, acquired after the Civil War, part of the cultural landscape of historically important houses and historic districts of Nelson County, but we were the builders of those historic resources. The Wingina Post Office Store, Montezuma, Bon Aire, just to name a few, are a portfolio of our accomplishments, recognized and often registered historic manifests that our Woodson ancestors helped to establish.
We started from the Union Hill and moved, not far, to Cabell Road. So proudly, we uphold our existence in this community, maintaining, amongst the families related by slavery, a cherished bond, which we still gather to celebrate. We are still here! It’s the truest form of life we know. I strongly believe that a decision to use this Wingina community on the ACP [Atlantic Coast Pipeline] proposed route a target practice of racial discrimination.
I couldn’t agree with Ms. Woodson more. When government agencies and corporations discount – or worse even target – African American communities as lacking not only historic significance but also present day importance, they are acting out of the systemic, racist practices that have governed our country since the day it was created. We cannot allow this practice to continue.
I stand with the Woodson, Venable, Dillard, Early, White, Rose, Fleming, Mayo, and Horsley families of Wingina as they oppose this threat to their home and their history.
If you know of African American communities under threat from actions such as these, please do let me know. I’d be happy to share this space as a way for you to spread the word about these terrible acts.